Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Aachen Cathedral Treasury - Part 3: Shrine with nice pictures (tents!)

Following on from my previous posts concerning the Aachen Cathedral Treasury, here is another selected treasure.


Karlsschrein (Charlemange shrine)- 1200-1215 Aachen , gilded silver and enameled copper.

This is a lovely piece of artistry. I read somewhere that 12th C german metalsmiths were copied by the manuscript artists because they were were considered the superior artists of the time. For a colour pictures of the shrine, a glimpse of colour scheme, search for 'Aachen' at this link, and look for the gold and silver metalwork. (sorry direct links not working) It's only a single colour image of the shrine, but it shows well how the colours are and how a few more details can be seen in colour (eg broaches clasping cloaks) than can be seen in the high resolution black and white photos linked to below. Ithink it might have been all gold originally, but the gilding wore off.

Now to talk about specific aspects of the shrine's artwork and how it relates to concrete objects of the era....

The clothing depicted on the shrine is mainly same as 1180, possibly with less droopy sleeves, although with so few women depicted, and then mainly only Mary, it is hard to tell with regards to sleeves.. Are silversmiths behind or conservative, or does fashion not feature the sudden changes seen in France at around 1200? I think it may be rather the characters on the shrine - saints are very often dressed conservatively in fashions a little out of date and lacking the excesses of fashion. But it's also possible German fashion doesn't have a big change from late 12th C to 13th C clothing -this would be a lovely project for someone else to follow up.

There are some really lovely depictions of braids on garments, and the ample stones reflect a period practice we mostly only read about, since extant garments generally have had these stolen, and in manuscripts we can't reliably distinguish these from braid with a blobby pattern.

The material and method used enables us to see a number of features not normally seen - for example crisp lines of applied braid on many of these shoes (almost in the same pattern as the extant shoes of Philip of Swabia of around this time). Manuscripts cannot show the difference between an applied raised braid and a flatter painted on sewn on decoration in this situation, while much sculpture has been weathered, obliterating the crisp lines that make such a distinction possible. The precious and religious nature of this shrine has resulted in excellent preservation.

About half the shoes are in this style with
Many others saints on this shrine have one piece of braid (less high, often wider), running up the vamp of the shoes and far up the calf - these are long boots, and remind me of this pair of hose/buskins.

The crowns shown match well with the extant crowns of this era (mostly german) that I have seen, especially the fleur-de-lis on top.

There are a couple of nice pictures of armour, including details of Charlemagne putting on (or taking off?) his armour. The lines of where the chainmail stops (especially on the legs) are clearer than on many other pictures I've seen. And nice details of surcoats, haulberks without a concealing surcoat, and haulberks with built in hoods (I think).

There are a lovely picture of tents from a fairly close perspective , and a second depiction with similar tents with an interesting feature I'll discuss at the end. I'm quite excited because tents are relatively rare in artwork of this era, and pictures with this level of detail even more so. They appear to be single bell tents, held up by a central pole and a network of guy ropes. The Central Pole is not visible, but I believe it is implied by the use of a ball and decorative caps on top of the centre of the tent. Charlemangne's tent is topped with the eagle (symbol of German royals), while the other tents are topped with crosses.

The section of tent immediately under the ball appears to be a separate piece from the tent roof below it, as clear seams (including textural differences) show on several tents but is probably still a fabric (cloth or leather) as it falls in a curve with gravity, rather than stiffly. This corresponds with stiffener panels used in recreations.

The roof of the tents appears to have been decorated with patterned fabric. Other tents show a pattern of radiating stripes that could be stripes (more accurately arcs), or could simply be tension lines from the guy ropes.

From the edge of the roof, several guy ropes are seen anchored to the ground. They attach to the roof of the tent via a triangular or y-shaped feature. The spacing between guy ropes is quite small, although guy ropes on the front of hte tent have been omitted. This may be to create a doorway, but more likely is for artistic reasons, to not block the view of the protagonists. (other guy ropes end at the edge of the tent to prevent overlapping other characters).

The walls of the tent descend from somewhere slightly inside of the edge of the roof, and descend fairly vertical until about halfway down, and then flare out to the ground. The way the walls flare is consistent with being pegged out (approx one peg per guy rope, so also at fairly regular intervals). I believe I can see a one of these pegs, but it is simply a tapered blob.

It is not clear if any additional structures such as internal wall poles are present or absent, but if the lines on the roof are stress lines, I would guess not.

A doorway opens from the front of the tent in a gentle curve, but the way this nicely frames the scene inside makes me believe this is likely to be an artistic cutaway, rather than a realistic doorway shape. Then again, it might be both a good artistic cutaway shape and a good door way shape.

On the second picture, one tent is depicted with a strange window in the roof. Maybe this is a skylight? Interestingly, the lines I previously identified as tension lines in the roof run through the "window" in the roof from centre pole to guy ropes. Perhaps this is a way the roof was reinforced?

This reminds me a great deal of the tents used by my sca neighbours.

other items
Also depicted on the reliquary are some nice lamps and pennons, which I've added to my forthcoming next post on the topic.


Jac said...

Might the triangular fastenings of the guys to the tent be crow's feet ties?

These images bring to mind a thought I've had for a couple of years; is it possible that the tent is assembled by setting up the centre pole and guying it firmly, then laying the tent roof section over it and tying it to the guys?

In the partially assembled tents depicted, it looks as though perhaps the guy ropes run all the way to the peak, and the roof section is supported by the rope framework they form. Then the walls could be hung from the roof section/guy ropes in some way.

Teffania said...

I see two likely options for the triangular bits - either a pair of crows feet, or a triangular tab with a grommet in it. I think the former is more likely, but there isn't a lot of detail.

Tent roofs can be very strong sails. Conventional methods of just tieing the roof to preassembled ropes are not likely to hold. Think about how umbrellas skins detach from their struts.

I don't think a tent made in that manner would fall over in this manner: http://www.viatores-temporis.de/info/zelte/111_g.jpg (from http://www.viatores-temporis.de/info/zelte.php) Well at least for that particular tent - I'm sure there were different methods.
Actually I think my major problem is - I don't think the line from centre pole to ground is straight enough. It's easy enough to change angles if you have a join point (eg where you put the crowsfeet at the edge of the tent), but I'm not sure otherwise.

I guess it needs testing though. If setup time was longer that would be the killer. And how do you drag a roof over a pole 2m above the ground?

http://www.viatores-temporis.de/info/zelte/103_3_g.jpg definately suggests the tent walls are hung.

I'm more thinking of sewing the ropes into the seams of the fabric. A small bit of the rope could extend out and attach to the next section of guy rope making them all part of the same vector. Then again, I guess a well placed seam could perform the same function as seams are stiffer and stronger than single layer canvas.

So got any spare cotton canvas?

Aachen cathedral said...

Really This is a lovely piece of artistry and religious church in the Germany.I like these place for peacefulness and fabulous historic place.Nice informative blog.